Clarke, Jeremiah (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

CLARKE, JEREMIAH (1669?–1707), musical composer, is said to have been born in 1669 (though probably the date should be earlier), but nothing is known of his parentage or early history, save that he studied at the Chapel Royal under Dr. Blow [q. v.] On leaving the chapel he was for a short time organist of Winchester College, but the dates of his stay there cannot now be ascertained, as no lists of the college organists have been preserved. In 1693 Blow resigned to him the posts of almoner and master of the choristers at St. Paul's, and on 6 June 1699 he was admitted to his year of probation as vicar choral, though he was not fully admitted until 3 Oct. 1705 ‘post annum probationis completum,’ no explanation appearing in the chapter records for the long interval which had elapsed. On 7 July 1700, Clarke and Croft [q. v.] were sworn gentlemen extraordinary of the Chapel Royal, ‘and to succeed as organists according to merit, when any such place shal fall voyd.’ On 25 May 1704 another entry in the Cheque Book records that the two composers were sworn ‘joyntly into an organist's place, vacant by the death of Mr. Francis Pigott.’ Some time previous to these appointments Clarke began a connection with the theatre. He wrote music for D'Urfey's ‘Fond Husband’ (licensed 15 June 1676)—probably for the revival at the Haymarket, 20 June 1707; for Sedley's version of ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ (licensed 24 April 1677); ‘Titus Andronicus,’ altered by Ravenscroft (1687); Settle's ‘World in the Moon’ (1697, in collaboration with Daniel Purcell); D'Urfey's ‘Campaigners’ (1698); Peter Motteux's ‘Island Princess’ (1699, in collaboration with Daniel Purcell and Leveridge); D'Urfey's ‘The Bath, or the Western Lass’ (1701); Manning's ‘All for the Better’ (1732); the revival of Howard's ‘Committee’ (1706); and D'Urfey's ‘Wife for any Man,’ a play of which Clarke's songs are the only record, but which was produced between 1704 and 1707. Besides the above, Clarke wrote an ode on the union of the king and parliament, an ode in praise of the Barbadoes, a cantata (‘The Assumption’), and many single songs. He was the original composer of Dryden's ode ‘Alexander's Feast,’ which was produced at Stationers' Hall on 22 Nov. 1697. In 1700 he joined Blow, Piggott, Barrett, and Croft in producing a little volume of ‘Ayres for the Harpsichord or Spinett,’ in which he is styled ‘Organist of St. Paul's Cathedral and Composer of the Musick used in the Theatre Royal.’ According to a note in the ‘Registrum Eleemosynariæ D. Pauli Londinensis’ (1827) he was also music-master to Queen Anne. In 1699 a prize of two hundred guineas was offered for a musical work, but Clarke declined to compete, giving as a reason that the judges were to be noblemen. The story of his end, as told by Hawkins and Burney, is somewhat romantic. They relate that he cherished a hopeless passion for a lady of high position, and, falling into a state of melancholy, resolved to kill himself. While riding near London he went into a field where there was a pond, and tossed up to decide whether he should drown or shoot himself. The coin fell with its edge imbedded in the clay, so Clarke returned to London, where, after a short time, he committed suicide by shooting himself in his house in St. Paul's Churchyard, on the site of the present chapterhouse. Unfortunately, the story of this romantic attachment is contradicted by a contemporary broadsheet which seems to have escaped the notice of his biographers. It is a large single sheet, entitled ‘A Sad and Dismal Account of the Sudden and Untimely Death of Mr. Jeremiah Clark, one of the Queen's Organists, who Shot himself in the Head with a Screw Pistol, at the Golden Cup in St. Paul's-Church-Yard, on Monday Morning last, for the supposed Love of a Young Woman, near Pater-noster-Row.’ The account states how Clarke, a bachelor with a salary of over 300l. a year, about nine o'clock ‘Monday morning last’ was visited by his father and some friends, ‘at which he seem'd to be very Chearful and Merry, by Playing on his Musick for a considerable time, which was a Pair of Organs in his own House, which he took great Delight in,’ and after his father had gone returned to his room, when, between ten and eleven o'clock, his maid-servant heard a pistol go off in his room, and running in found that he had shot himself behind the ear. He died the same day about three o'clock. ‘The Occasion … is variously Discours'd; some will have it that his Sister marrying his Scholar [Charles King], who he fear'd might in time prove a Rival in his Business, threw him into a kind of melancholy Discontent; and others (with something more Reason) impute this Misfortune to a young Married Woman near Pater-Noster-Row, whom he had a more than ordinary respect for, who not returning him such suitable Favours as his former Affections deserv'd, might in a great Measure occasion dismal Effects.’

Very curious discrepancies exist as to the exact date when Clarke shot himself. Burney (followed by Fétis) says the event took place in July 1707; the first edition of Hawkins fixes it as 5 Nov. 1707, in which he has been followed by Mendel, Baptie, and Brown. But Hawkins left a copy of his ‘History,’ in which he had made numerous corrections, and in this the date appears as 1 Dec. 1707, which date is given in the 1853 edition of the work. In the Chapel Royal Cheque Book is an entry, signed by the sub-dean, to the effect that on 5 Nov. 1707 Croft was admitted into the organist's place, ‘now become void by the death of Mr. Jeremiah Clerk,’ and in Barrett's ‘English Church Composers’ (p. 106) is a statement that the books of the vicars-choral of St. Paul's contain an entry to the effect that on ‘November ye first, Mr. Jerry Clarke deceased this life.’ These various accounts seem quite irreconcilable, but the following facts throw some light on the subject: 1. In 1707, 5 Nov. was a Wednesday, and 1 Nov. a Saturday, while 1 Dec. was a Monday. The latter date therefore tallies with the broadsheet account, published (by John Johnson, ‘near Stationers' Hall,’ and therefore close to Clarke's house) within a week of the event, though no entry of the exact date of publication can be found at Stationers' Hall. 2. The burial register of St. Gregory's by St. Paul records the burial of Jeremiah Clarke on 3 Dec. 1707. 3. Administration to his goods was granted by the dean and chapter of St. Paul's to his sister, Ann King, on 15 Dec. 4. The entry in the Chapel Royal Cheque Book was probably not made at the time, and so November might easily have been written instead of December. The order of the entries preceding and following it is this: 28 Jan. 1703, 24 March 1710–11, 25 May 1704, 5 Nov. 1707, 12 June 1708. The entry also is not witnessed. With regard to the quotation from the records at St. Paul's, everything points to its being either a mistake or a misprint. Unfortunately, at the time of writing this article it is impossible to verify the statement, part of the vicars-choral's records being inaccessible.

Clarke holds a distinct position among the Restoration musicians; though not a composer of great strength and vigour, there is a peculiar charm about many of his anthems and songs, a charm which Burney recognised, saying that ‘he was all tenderness.’ His church music still survives, though it is to be feared that much else of his has perished. His death was lamented by Edward Ward (the London Spy), who concludes what was intended to be a pathetic ode with the following lines:—

Let us not therefore wonder at his fall,
Since 'twas not so unnatural
For him who liv'd by Canon to expire by Ball.

[Burney's and Hawkins's Histories of Music; Grove's Dict. of Music, i.; Ward's Works, iv. 211; Cheque Book of the Chapel Royal; Genest's Hist. of the Stage, i. ii.; MS. Catalogue of the Ch. Ch. Collection, Oxford; contemporary newspapers; Registers of St. Gregory's, kindly communicated by the Rev. E. Hoskins; Probate Registry, Somerset House; information and assistance from the Revs. W. Sparrow Simpson and G. W. Lee, Dr. Stainer, and Mr. W. Winn; Athenæum, March–April 1887.]

W. B. S.